This year has been anything, but predictable. Tempers flared, unexpected political change swept us off, hearts got broken, conflicts escalated, joy seemed to dimmer in the world, yet we all seem to be marching forward. So, as we close the page on 2016 and start anew in 2017, I thought I would look back & reflect, get grounded in present and move forward with positivity, aspirations and hope.
Lesson in politics: first we had Brexit and I never felt such vibes of utter despair in London. The town was quite, people clutched their coffee or water cups, as kids got dropped off at schools and a new work day loomed ahead. Then America went to vote and the result felt like a groundhog day. A few days after the results of the US election got announced and confirmed, I went to a book group hosted by a friend, where I watched two American women reflect on what happened. Yes, there were simmering anger undercurrents, yet they both talked of the lessons learnt, open dialogue and moving forward talking to each other, learning from past mistakes. I left the group that night deep in thought and full of admiration for those two women, who even though they belong to an older generation & in theory might find change hard, seemed to draw lessons and have strong desire to learn, in order to change things for the better in the future. I think this can apply to all spheres of life. A lot of things in life happen outside of our control, but it is up to each one of us to decide on the best actions to take when we don’t get the result that we desire. Blaming others doesn’t help and neither does being angry for long. What helps is taking the time to understand why this or that happened and what we can do next time to hopefully get the result that resonates with us.
Lesson in business: as in the past, I tended to step on the rakes yet again. I have a propensity to get excited about businesses, ideas and work of others and get behind them with my support. Yet what often happens is that people accept that support, at times not even bothering to thank me, let alone reciprocating when it comes to the work that I do. When I recently mused about it to my acupuncturist before the start of the session, he asked me if that made me feel angry. If I got asked this question a year ago, I would have probably instantly said ‘yes’. Surprising myself, without even thinking, I actually shook my head and sincerely uttered ‘no’. Thing is, I give my support willingly and if that support isn’t reciprocated, I only have myself to blame for the expectations I might harbour. Others can’t do to us what we don’t allow them, so if I felt disappointment, I could only lay the blame at my door. The way forward is to sit down and think whether I want to continue supporting those people or brands or wish them luck and take a step back from them, stepping into my own limelight. I have ambitions, I am good at what I do and I am capable of swiming in my own lane. What I send out to the universe I will get back.
Lesson in health: this year quite a few people I know or know of through friends became ill. Some of them are older, so maybe it wasn’t a total surprise, but it made me think how we all rush and talk of being stressed, but not many of us, myself included at times, actually take the time to address our own life balance. Giving advice to others is always easier than following it yourself, right? Our bodies are smart and send us signals when we overdo things, yet often we simply don’t listen. Signals become more urgent and if we don’t react, a big boom can happen. This summer I took the time to digitally detox & contemplate my own lifestyle & work choices. Did the world stop? Hell no, most people probably didn’t even notice my scaled down presence on the social media, but I came back to London feeling so innately happy, I just grinned from ear to ear most of the time.
Then I started running again and got to the end of the year running almost on empty. And you know what? I will slow down for the festive time – this post is my last one for 2016, I will indulge and spend time hugging those I love. And then in January I will shift up a gear & move in my own lane, at a speed that works for me, making sure I integrate daily ‘love myself’ ritual, which includes mental self-care, fitness & nourishment. I am a giver by nature, but I can’t support others, if I don’t nurture myself & we, women, can be pretty bad at that. I become snappy and frustrated and it is often my loved ones who bear the grunt of it, while the outside world observes a happy face. I don’t pretend to be who I am not, but I am no longer tolerant of letting myself down and mirroring it on those I care about. My family and friends mean the world to me and they appreciate me for who I am, on good and bad days. Well, they deserve more of good days. So while I won’t be detoxing my body in winter, I will aim to do sport more regularly and consistently, I will meditate daily and I will continue my daily gratitude practise, when at the end of the day I write down or list mentally five good things that happened to me that day and for which I am grateful. No matter how trivial, this is what allows me to finish one day positively and start another one in the same way. As Jason Wachoub, founder of Mind Body Green, said in his recent BoF talk, the best sport for you is the one that you actually end up participating in. It’s not about trends, it is about finding what works for your body and fuelling yourself physically, emotionally, nutritionally and mentally. My ‘Bible’ for the year ahead is the book recommended by Emma Cannon called ‘Live Long Live Well’ by Peter Deadman & this is a subject that I want to write more about next year.
Lessons in life: Life is what we make of it, or so the saying goes. We are who we surround ourselves with. And if the relationship doesn’t work, think what needs fixing, as well as how the other person views it. My husband recently returned from a business trip and said to me something that actually deeply touched me. We had an argument recently about something that I felt quite strongly about and I huffed and puffed about the subject for a while. Yet something clearly hit the nerve, as he looked at me after that trip and said pensively and sincerely:’ You know what? I now understand exactly what you meant that day! Recently I ended up repeating the same thing to someone and it felt so right & so true’. This truly was a gift and I felt a very profound shift and gratitude for his listening ability. After all, most of us are good speakers, but are we good listeners? In a way I learnt a lesson from him too, that listening is such an important skill, the importance of which should never be underestimated. It is something that I try to drum into our kids, yet sometimes need to be better practised at myself. You can’t force change – be it on yourself, or on others. You start with baby steps and then change takes hold – all you have to do is be determined to do it!
I admire honesty and integrity and authenticity. I admire people who are able to give to others, without asking anything in return. This year I asked one of the editors whose work I greatly admire to mentor me. She kindly declined, giving me her reasons. A couple of days later, I wrote her a long letter, telling her that I understand the reasons that she gave me and was grateful for her honesty. I also asked her to lunch or dinner, as I wanted to know what she thought about my career path and prospects within the industry that she knows so well. I never heard back from her, even though I know that the letter was delivered to her office. Do I admire her work? Yes, without a doubt. But my admiration for her personally diminished a bit, because even in the busiest schedule you can find the time to extend a little bit of generosity to the other, who clearly follows the work that you so.
Or maybe the lesson here is this: sometimes it’s better not to approach someone you admire because without meaning to, they might disappoint you or you will feel let down, when in actual fact they never owed you their time in the first place. Let alone a sliver of a conversation. But your stepping towards them will leave a scar that might take time to heal. So before you take that leap of faith, think twice if you should or rather, what are your expectations? If you genuinely have none, someone’s indifference to an excited stranger will pass unnoticed, like a fleeting glimpse into the crowd that won’t alter your life. Don’t idolise people, don’t expect them to be kind or caring and don’t presume that because you admire their talent or work they might be inclined to pay attention to YOU – but be thankful, if they do. When that happens it will have a wonderful mutual impact, even if you never see each other again or your paths won’t cross. After all, in one way or another we all have benefitted from kindness of strangers and hopefully reciprocated it back to another person. Only recently I bumped into Jilly Cooper, a writer who I have adored since my late teens and whose books have always brought laugher and joy to me. I haven’s seen her for many years, yet she gave me the most wonderful smile when I reminded her of our meeting many years ago and proceeded to question my how my life has changed since then. I will cherish those few minutes in her company for the rest of my life, as well as her generosity of spirit!
If you do a kind deed & the recipient lets it go unnoticed, especially when the person knows you, walk away and don’t make the same mistake again. Having said that, don’t let your heart harden – there are people out there who will value, appreciate or mentor you. Or smile at you when you really need it, but least expect it. Have high expectations of yourself, work hard, network and do your best to seek like-minded people with whom you look in the same direction. The world is not such a bad place after all, when you are part of the tribe that celebrates individuality, as well as team work. And if you need any inspiration from some amazing people, leaf through Richard Reed’s, founder of Innocent Smoothies, new book called ‘If I could tell you just one thing’.
‘If you put your head on a pillow late at night and think it hasn’t been a good day, wake up next day and change something. It might be your ideas or attitude. It could be anything, but change something. Don’t just drag on a set of circumstances which aren’t falling into the right places. You’ve got to listen to and then act on that inner spark.’ Pillow talk with Joan Bakewell, from the above mentioned book.
May your personal and professional journey in 2017 be a happy & peaceful one!